Number and spatial distribution of nuclei in the muscle fibres of normal mice studied in vivo

J Physiol. 2003 Sep 1;551(Pt 2):467-78. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2003.045328. Epub 2003 Jun 17.


We present here a new technique with which to visualize nuclei in living muscle fibres in the intact animal, involving injection of labelled DNA into single cells. This approach allowed us to determine the position of all of nuclei within a sarcolemma without labelling satellite cells. In contrast to what has been reported in tissue culture, we found that the nuclei were immobile, even when observed over several days. Nucleic density was uniform along the fibre except for the endplate and some myotendinous junctions, where the density was higher. The perijunctional region had the same number of nuclei as the rest of the fibre. In the extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscle, the extrajunctional nuclei were elongated and precisely aligned to the long axis of the fibre. In the soleus, the nuclei were rounder and not well aligned. When comparing small and large fibres in the soleus, the number of nuclei varied approximately in proportion to cytoplasmic volume, while in the EDL the number was proportional to surface area. Statistical analysis revealed that the nuclei were not randomly distributed in either the EDL or the soleus. For each fibre, actual distributions were compared with computer simulations in which nuclei were assumed to repel each other, which optimizes the distribution of nuclei with respect to minimizing transport distances. The simulated patterns were regular, with clear row-like structures when the density of nuclei was low. The non-random and often row-like distribution of nuclei observed in muscle fibres may thus reflect regulatory mechanisms whereby nuclei repel each other in order to minimize transport distances.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / ultrastructure*
  • Cell Size
  • DNA
  • Female
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Isotope Labeling
  • Mice
  • Microinjections
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Motor Endplate / ultrastructure
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / ultrastructure*
  • Satellite Cells, Skeletal Muscle / ultrastructure
  • Tendons / ultrastructure


  • DNA